There’s something about Madeira

There was a lot for me to unpack when I read and saw Sascha’s post last week. I was wondering how he could not like Madeira as much as I had and naturally assumed that he had done something wrong. What could that be? Having been ill might have been part of that and would naturally bias someone against an experience. Then again, I lost twothousand euros worth of camera equipment there (into a ravine – I won’t go into the hows and whys of that here) and though that sent me down a phase of depression for a couple of days, I liked the island just as much.

Another aspect was how different our experiences were. My friend and I were there for only a week and we did a lot of roadtripping along the meandering cliff-roads, went on whale-watching trips and Saskia went canyoning while I explored Funchal. All in all I guess we spent very different days there and that – for me – gives an idea of how varied the possible experiences are on Madeira. I thoroughly enjoyed the clouds and the weather, the sun and the driving-around. I do agree that Funchal will not make it into my top 50 of cities, probably not even the top 100, I just don’t think about it that much, apart from the cable-car up the mountain. But as we saw such different things and because I lost a whole day of nature images because of gravity and a healthy dose of clumsiness, my selection looks decidedly different and are mainly shot on a 50mm prime lens, the only one I had left and not the worst, I might say.

My main goal was to shoot nature, especially whales, and I did not lose my telephoto lens, but that is a project I will pursue more in the future. So here are some shots from Funchal and our main roadtrip and I think that they are quite different from Sascha’s, simply for the reason that we did not hike as much and thus got very different imagery. I made them black and white, cause I felt like it and because I wanted to renew my take on Madeira as the images have sat here for three quarters of a year.

I hope you enjoy them!

Oh, and before I forget. I know we are both busy at the moment, but how about a fine art/abstract image of food?

Sick and uninspired… in Madeira

When I thought about where to go for holiday this year, Madeira was not my favorite destination, but there was no time to organize a road trip. I remembered so many people and friends (including Torsten) who told me that Madeira is a wonderful place to be. Well… what should I say? I am not that impressed.


Don’t get me wrong, but somehow this holidays did not work out for me. Unfortunately I was getting ill after we arrived on the island, laying in bed for 2 days, too weak to do anything but resting. After I felt better my wife got the same symptoms, so she was resting for the next 2 days. The first week we nearly did not see anything of the island. After we both recovered we started to explore Madeira by car and the second week we felt good enough try some hiking-trails. But after that 2 weeks I was glad to get back home.

What went wrong? Maybe it was just the wrong time of the year, but the only thing that really satisfied me was hiking. It is pretty nice to walk through nature, but if there is nothing else, I start to get bored.
And that’s it. What I missed was some kind of authentic atmosphere in the towns and cities, but everything looks like made for the tourists. Even the Capital Funchal was not very exciting. I was wondering where do all the locals go to, but I did not find out.

I think that’s why I am not very happy with the pictures I have taken there, because all I found were the touristic hotspots where everyone is going to. So here are some examples and I am pretty sure that Torsten got the same kind of picture when he was there last year. Proof me wrong, Torsten. Time to compare!

#2018bestnine

Phew, 2018 is over and it was a rather likeable year, so no hard feelings.

Over at Instagram #2018bestnine is a real thing and everyone who’s anyone and everyone else, including me, downloaded some free app to automate the process of finding out, which nine pictures did best that year. Note to the uninitiated: I bought an app for a Euro and it only filters out pictures from 2018, so next year, I’ll have to heavily invest again.

The results surprised me a lot. Of course, I do also like these images, but they’re not really my favourite ones, or at least not the ones that represent where I thought I’d go with photography. Let’s break it down, shall we?

First of all: no portraits. No bloody portraits. I really like portraits and I also like the ones I made and I feel that it is much more of an artform to make a picture of someone that represents him favourably than it is to make pictures of the sun going down. But my portraits just don’t fly off the shelves in comparison to my other pictures. I’ll think about the implications of that later, maybe in a blog post sometime.

Second of all: no animals. After starting photography as part of documenting my travels to Africa, the next thing that came natural to me were zoo animals. I try to portray (there’s that concept again) them out of context. That is, I try to give them back their freedom by unshackling the frame of most elements that would hint at them being caged. And I really feel, that my animal portraits are quite touching. As a side-note: zoo-photography is a tricky thing from an ethical standpoint that I wrote about extensively elsewhere.

Third of all: most pictures were taken in Hamburg, even though they are not necessarily better than the ones taken on Mallorca or Madeira, in Bochum or Cologne. This is interesting, because I lovingly tag my images on IG in order to reach a wider audience, but either it doesn’t work or my Hamburg-based main audience is just not interested in anything outside of itself – a filter bubble of sorts.

Make no mistake – I really like the images and have included some of them in my yearly calendars, but I was really surprised that my own perception of my photography and the outside-world perception – while overlapping – are not the same.

Next time I’ll show some of my picks for 2018, but here they are in full resolution glory, my most-liked nine pics over at instagram.

Enjoy!

Something I nearly repressed

In photography I´m always looking forward, trying to push myself to get better results. The consequence is that older pictures get kicked out of my portfolio. I keep them hidden on one of my hard-drives, but hardly looked at them again.

Torsten asked for my first photos that leave its mark in my photography, so here is the story and the pictures:

I bought my first camera in 2009. It was a Nikon D80 with an aweful kit-lens with a range of 18-55mm. There is really not much you can do with it, but as a beginner I started experimenting with aperture and shutterspeed. At that time I was a Photoshop nerd, so I post-processed most of these images to death. High saturated, oversharpened and somtimes with the use of grunge-textures. Nowadays I´m not shure what I tried to express. Nothing special I think, just developing my skills.

In 2009 I traveled to Croatia and from there I did daytrips to Slovenia, Trieste and Venice. That was a wonderful opportunity to proof that camera. Here are some pictures of Venice I worked on.

rewind to the past

This post is about the first time I took photos for the sake of photography, that is to say the first time I thought of pictures as more than snapshots. I realized I wanted to take pictures of places and people two years before, when I first went to Africa, but I did not have a camera back then and only bought it some months before I was set to return to Tanzania. As I went on a short holiday in Wiltshire for summer college at Marlborough, I brought my brand new Olympus Pen EPL 2 with its 14-42 (equiv. 28-84mm on full-frame). 

Wiltshire is a wonderful county that showcases the typical landscape of Great Britain, rather rural, small towns with their parish churches and patches of farmland, whimsically cut up by hedges. Inside all of that there are spectacular and unique remnants of the past scattered all around. Apart from the old towns, you can find the Avebury Henge and Stonehenge, both being UNESCO World Heritage sites. Moreover, there is a functional Roman Bath in the aptly called town of Bath. 2012 saw a stunning summer with golden light every day and that holiday still is one of my favourites.

In terms of photography, I took my first pictures and some of the first that I really liked. It’s hard to be sure, though. One’s own pictures are always infused with the emotions you experienced back then, so that it’s hard to be objective. An acquaintance of mine asked me recently if starting out with photography was hard, meaning that in the beginning almost no one produces one’s best work. I think that I was lucky that my holiday there made it easy to take nice shots, but you be the judge.

Enjoy!

p.s. hey Sascha, why not share some of your favourites from the past that made you follow through with photography?

Absence of life

Landscape-Photography is something I really appreciate, especially when nature shows its raw character. Landscapes can look very unique.

What affects me most are pictures that seem to threaten you, because of the unreal landscapes that look like from another planet. You won´t believe that life is possible there. That always fascinates me and somtimes I would like to put a human being into the picture to get a surrealistic component into it. But when you are standing in the middle of nowhere it´s hard to find someone who would do that for you.

These pictures I have taken a few years ago in Namibia, Vietnam and Jordan.

architecture is boring part II

I so wholeheartedly agree with Sascha. I cannot seem to be able to enjoy taking architectural photography. It’s like taking pictures of photographs done by others. It’s art by other people that I’ve never made my own. I do enjoy certain types of architectural photography, maybe long-exposures with crazy cloud-shapes, maybe certain angles that want to signify symmetry or what have you. On Instagram you get lost in spiral-staircases, windows in skyscrapers and the like…. me not like. The greatness of that art is lost on me.

If on the other hand I do go out and do photography with architectural elements in it then it’s mainly for a different reason – as a payoff for sunset-photography, an element of contrast in long-exposure light-trails or as an establishing shot for exploring the architecture in more detail. The main image here is the Jenisch-Haus in Hamburg. Built between 1831 and 1834 it’s part of a rural farm overseeing the river Elbe. It’s one of the most beautiful houses in Hamburg and has a history rich in progressive thought (for that time). Today it houses a museum. 

Photographing the Jenisch-Haus and the spacious park is an ongoing project of mine. The park has a small river meandering through it and is home to many old trees. The house itself houses (see what I did there?) a museum showing bourgeois life and taste. To me it’s a glimpse into the former glory of Hamburg with some even mystic elements.  If you want, then click on the images in the gallery for getting acquainted with the park, the house and the spirit they emote.

Enjoy!

Architecture is boring!

Don´t get me wrong. Architecture is pretty exciting. Since I´ve dived deeper into the Bauhaus-era I get a new feeling for Design and the conception of buildings. There is so much to study about, it really enlightens my mind. And if you see impressive buildings nowadays it´s always awesome to see what architects are able to create.

Nevertheless if there is a topic in photography I am hardly interested in then it´s architeture-photography. A building can look amazing, but it´s an static object. You can move around or maybe get a look inside, but the sweetspots are always the same. If you try landscape-photography you can walk through the landscape and see how it changes. If you try studio-photography you can shoot objects in different contexts and if you try street-photography it´s always about that special moment to capture. But a building is a building and the possibilities are pretty limited. I think that´s why architecture-photography always – and I mean always – looks the same. Everyone takes the same picture. From a higher or lower angle, maybe with a different focal length or different focuspoint, but it´s always the same damn picture. And these pictures generate interest just because of the buildingconcept and not because of the photographers skills. That´s why I think architecure-photography is pretty boring.

But maybe I´m wrong. If you know someone who really takes extraordinary architectural pictures leave me a comment or write me a mail. I haven´t found one yet.

In my photography-course I had to take architecural photos, so I went to the artmuseum in Bonn. It was build in 1992 by the architects Dietrich Bangert, Bernd Jansen, Stefan Scholz and Axel Schultes. The modern geometric stucture is international style. That´s why I tried to capture these strict lines and geometric shapes.

I´m sadisfied with what I got, but I don´t think that I found a new perspective. Decide yourself. Here is what I got.

the power of portraits

This post is really late. I was sick for a couple of days, so I didn’t have the peace of mind to write up a post – that is also, why this one is short and also contains only one image.

I agree with Sascha, shooting images of people is really the greatest thing to do with a camera. It is also the most threatening in a way. If you misrepresent a landscape, the grass and trees, rivers and mountains won’t be mad at you. It’s hard to be unflattering to something that has no agency, feelings or emotions itself.

If I take pictures of people, I feel a special responsibility. I want to capture a part of their personality – are they funny, serious, optimistic or grumpy in a way that speaks in a positive way about them. It does not have to be flattering in an aesthetic way, but the picture has to be representative of one aspect of the person, ideally – to me – one, that they think is representative of themselves, too.

I started with street portraits in Tanzania, for reasons I might tell you about later, and did some street photography portraiture, mainly of street musicians, because they are already public. Last year I began to set-up a small pop-up home studio with a backgrounds, speedlights and light-modifiers. I really like that situation, because one the one hand you can control every aspect of the light and on the other hand you can connect to the model with some intensity (and a coffee on the side).

This one was done for a co-worker who is a classically trained singer. What I really like is that it tells a great story of him as a person and of him in a stage-personality. It’s from my first studio-session ever, and still one of my favourites.

My favorite subjetct

This time I have only one picture to share. In his last post Torsten asked me what is my favorite subject to shoot. It´s easy to answer: People! Or more specific: Street-Portraiture.

I like shooting people in a raw and authentic style as they are, but I always have to overcome my fears to talk to strangers and ask them for taking their picture. Although nobody ever rejects me, it´s always an exciting situation and sometimes I lost the chance of getting the picture when I start thinking about what to tell them. So now I try to force myself to stop thinking and just start shooting.

The people I´m interested in are those who are living a differend kind of life or besides society. I do not judge anyone, but sometimes I think, if I do not get their picture, maybe no one will ever know that they exist or what kind of problems they might have.

I met the guy in the picture in Los Angeles while I was travelling along the West Coast. We got eyecontact and when he saw my camera, he asked me to take his picture. So I positioned him in front of a garage and he started posing. He might be a drug addict or just a strange guy. I had no chance to know more about his background, because as soon as I took 3 or 4 pictures he went away. I really liked that guy, but probaly I will never see him again.

I think the real subject of this picture is the prejudice. You see a black guy with a gun pointing at you. But when you look closer you will see that he is holding a toygun in his hand. Things are not always what you expect. And if you follow the „Black-Lives-Matter“- Compaign you will get the point. That´s why this is my personal favorite photo I have ever taken.